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Small Business Digest



Managers Spend Much of Their Lives Negotiating, So Need to Learn How

Jim Camp

Running a business entails dozens of negotiations every day: getting employees to learn a new process or program, making personnel decisions, managing conflict, dealing with customers and suppliers, wooing new clients, improving sales, working out pricing, and on and on.

With so many of a manager's efforts involving negotiation, learning some basic skills of professional negotiators clearly would improve a manager's effectiveness.

With that in mind, Jim Camp, president and CEO of Camp Negotiation Systems, shares the following suggestions:

Start with "no." Don't compromise. Instead, invite the other party to say no. The manager should tell the other person he won't take no as a personal rejection. A shrewd adversary will view the manager with more respect; a naïve adversary will feel safer to start the discussion.

Forget closing. Don't think about, hope for, or plan for the outcome of the deal. People should focus  instead only on what they can control: their behavior and activity during the negotiation.

Be prepared. Before going into a meeting, learn everything about the other party, the competition and the company's own position. 

Identify obstacles. Before any meeting, the manager should identify everything he can think of that might come up during the negotiation - personal baggage and their baggage.

Expose the elephant. Bring the problem, their problem, and anything else standing in the way of agreement out into the open. Doing so clears the air and eliminates surprises.

Have no emotions. In negotiations, be emotionally neutral. Exercise self-control so there are no expectations, fears or judgments. Above all, overcome neediness, the No. 1 deal killer.

Be like Columbo. Let the opponent feel superior. This is the "Lt. Columbo Effect." Don't dress to impress, name drop, use fancy language or get on a grandstand.

Get him talking. The person talking most loses the advantage. Ask great questions that begin with what, why, how, when and where. Learn about his needs, requirements, hopes, fears, plans, position and business objectives so that the manager can position the company as the solution.

Build the M&P for him. Every negotiation, whether it's a phone call or a formal business meeting, needs a mission and purpose. The M&P is to help the other party see how the three or four top features will benefit him and help him achieve his goals.

Solve his problem. Help him see that giving the company the deal proposed is to his advantage. Spend all of the time getting information about his world, understanding the challenges he anticipates and the problems he sees - and then present the company as the solution. 

Don't be friends. The other party is not a friend. The manager is not seeking loyalty or a long-term relationship - symbols of neediness. What should be wanted, instead, is respect and a fair agreement that accomplishes the mission and purpose, and solves his problem.

Adapted from an article by Camp, who has trained and coached more than 100,000 people through thousands of negotiations in more than 500 organizations. He is founder of J. Camp University, which offers Camp Method "Start with No" Credentialed Negotiation Skill Courses to organizations and individuals who wish to develop professional negotiating skills and become credentialed in negotiation. His best-selling book, Start with No, published by Crown Business, has been translated into 12 languages. Find out more at


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